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Klaudia Ofwona Draber writes:

In the 1990s Cox extended her autoethnographic journey in the series Flippin’ the Script, embedding the continually erased Black lived experience in often historically coded scenes. In these works the artist reinterprets well-known European religious art to include Black people. She says, “Christianity is big in the African American community, but there are no representations of us. I took it upon myself to include people of color in these classic scenarios.” Black Panther Last Supper (1993), modeled after Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (ca. 1495–98), was Cox’s first intervention in religious imagery. The work was made during Cox’s time in the Whitney Independent Study Program in 1992–93, and many of her friends from the program appear in the photograph—acting surprised. What could be the reason? Is it the anticipated betrayal or the fact that Jesus is a woman, wears an Afro, and is a Black Panther?


When Cox first created Black Panther Last Supper, she saw it as too radical to exhibit. She then created the widely derided, yet critically acclaimed, Yo Mama’s Last Supper (1996). There Jesus is also a Black woman but this time nude. Cox often notes, “It was easier to be naked,” as it removed the layer of class and the symbolism of clothing from the narrative.


Black Panther Last Supper features the artist’s signature gaze: she looks directly at the viewer. This oppositional gaze, as defined by the writer and educator bell hooks, or primary gaze, as preferred by Cox, is a form of power. Returning the gaze—long an act of rebellion and resistance against the racially dehumanizing commodification of a Black human, particularly during the era of slavery in the United States—is a way to regain power and counter colonial narratives. Cox fearlessly refuses to look down and continues to imagine, represent, and build a world without racial inequity.

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